For director of photography Seamus McGarvey, his decision to take on shooting Fifty Shades of Grey had everything to do with the director and longtime collaborator, Sam Taylor-Johnson. “I’ve worked on almost everything she’s done including projects for which she was the subject,” he tells ICG Magazine.
The steamy film, based on E.L. James’ bestselling erotica series of books, came laden with buzz and expectations. “The expectations are there. People are going to want the sex, so we can’t disappoint,” McGarvey says.
“The challenge for me,” he continues continues, “was to look at a world that I thought was quite unattractive – BDSM – and find ways of photographing it that lent the female protagonist more weight and more respect. Sam and I tried to be really sensitive to that, and I think with her talent she has restored it to a place of reverence and beauty.”
McGarvey chose ARRI Alexa XTs to shoot the film, “Photographically speaking, it’s one of the simplest films I’ve ever shot. The composition and framing were more important than the lighting,” he reveals.
It was also important to McGarvey to make sure the cinematography strengthened the love story aspect of the narrative. “In the beginning, regarding composition, there’s real distance and a kind of portentous space between the characters that eventually closes up [in the Red Room]. I wanted to find ways of showing the blankness of Christian Grey’s world and initially played with symmetry, order and a lack of color to showcase his life,” he says. “I wanted to shoot the sex unadorned. We used two cameras so that the actors could really live in the moment. There was a bit of choreography in the lead up, but we shot the intercourse more like wildlife photography. It allowed us to stand back and preserve the actors’ space.”
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